Outdoor painting: Finding the best easel size
Painting outdoors can be an exciting and rewarding experience for a painter. Whether you are exploring your home territory or traveling to breathtaking locations around the world, painting en plein air is an opportunity to connect with nature, hone your skills, and create something beautiful from your visual observations. However, to make the most of your field painting expeditions, you will need the right equipment. One of the most important tools for outdoor painting is the easel, which supports your canvas or board, restrains it from the wind, and lets you adjust the angle and orientation for better lighting and composition. In this article, we will examine some of the factors that go into choosing the best size easel for outdoor painting.
Factor 1: Portability
First and foremost, your outdoor painting easel should be portable. You will need to carry it to your painting location, set it up quickly, and pack it back up when you are done. Therefore, you should look for easels that are lightweight, easy to assemble and disassemble, and compact in size. Some popular options include tripod easels, pochade boxes, and French easels, which fold up into a suitcase-like package and offer storage for your paints, brushes, and other supplies. Consider the weight and sturdiness of the easel as well, especially if you are planning to hike or bike to your painting spot.
Factor 2: Canvas size
Another important factor to consider when choosing the size of your outdoor painting easel is the size of your canvas or board. While you can certainly paint small studies or sketches on a tiny easel, you may feel constrained if you want to work on larger pieces. The size of the easel should be proportionate to the size of the canvas, allowing you to position it at a comfortable height, adjust the angle as needed, and prevent it from wobbling or blowing away. Some easels can accommodate canvases up to 30 inches in height, while others are better suited for 18×24 or smaller sizes. If you are undecided on which canvas size to choose, opt for a versatile easel that can handle different sizes with adjustability.
Factor 3: Wind resistance
One of the most common challenges of outdoor painting is dealing with the wind. Even a mild breeze can cause problems for your canvas and easel, making them sway, vibrate, or tip over. Therefore, you may want to look for easels that offer some wind resistance or stability features, such as a central pole or support lever, sturdy legs, or a weight hook at the bottom. Additionally, you can use clips, clamps, or magnetic strips to secure your canvas to the easel or a nearby surface, or weigh down the legs with sandbags or heavy objects. Some plein air artists even build their own custom easels with wind deflectors or anchors.
Factor 4: Functionality
While the size and portability of your easel are critical, you should also pay attention to its functionality and convenience. For example, does the easel have adjustable legs or feet that can adapt to uneven terrain or table surfaces? Does it offer a convenient palette or brush holder on the side? Does it have enough space to store your paints, solvents, and painting accessories? Can it be used both vertically and horizontally, depending on your painting style? The more features your easel offers, the more versatile and efficient it will be in the field.
Factor 5: Price and quality
Finally, you should balance the price and quality of your outdoor painting easel, based on your budget, needs, and level of commitment to plein air painting. While you can find inexpensive easels online or at hobby stores, they may not last as long or be as ergonomic as higher-end models. On the other hand, top-of-the-line easels from reputable brands may cost several hundred dollars and require regular maintenance and cleaning. Look for reviews, recommendations, and comparisons online to get an idea of the best easels for your purpose and price range, and take advantage of sales, discounts, or used items whenever possible.